Saralyn Richard, who is sharing her thoughts on the five best things about series, whether writing or reading them, is the author of the Detective Parrot series and thrillers Bad Blood Sisters, A Murder of Principal. You can find out more about her on her website, www.saralynrichard.com, or by clicking here, read her last post here, and buy her books here.
When I wrote MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT, I was completely focused on telling a story about a group of old college friends who gather for an elegant birthday party weekend in the lush Brandywine Valley, a place so peaceful, you’d never expect a murder. One of the party guests turns up dead the next morning, and all the guests had motives to kill him. It wasn’t until I was halfway through writing the book that I realized its main character was the detective investigating the murder.
I never fathomed that Detective Parrott, an outsider in this community, where some of America’s wealthiest and most powerful elite reside, would develop such a following, or that a clamoring for more Detective Parrott books would ensue. But that’s what happened, and MURDER IN THE ONE PERCENT was followed by A PALETTE FOR LOVE AND MURDER, and now the third mystery in the series, CRYSTAL BLUE MURDER.
While I love reading books in a series, I wasn’t sure about writing them. Would I tire of Detective Parrott and Brandywine Valley? Would I have trouble concocting new and different plots? And what about all those juicy ideas for books I’d been collecting in my head for years? Would I ever have the chance to work with those, too?
What I learned is that writing a series can be just as much fun as reading one. Here are five reasons:
BEST THING #5
All the big decisions about main characters’ appearance, background, beliefs, and attitudes have already been made. The readers and I know what we can expect from them when they are put into a new situation. In fact, my characters are so real, they continue to whisper in my ear.
BEST THING #4
The audience for the first book is roughly the same as the audience for the new books. Book club members who enjoyed #1 will be eager for #2 and #3. Interestingly, the process works backwards, as well. Someone who reads #3 first and loves it will go back to read the previous books. Clarity of target audience makes for a more enjoyable story, as well.
BEST THING #3
Concepts or themes that required a lot of research or learning in book 1 have become familiar by the time we get to sequels. Familiarity creates a comfort zone within the book. We understand the topics and like deepening that understanding.
BEST THING #2
The better the author grasps the culture of the setting, the better the reader will grow to understand it. The authenticity of the various elements within the story grows with each book.
BEST THING #1
When I finish a book I love, I hate saying goodbye to the characters, whom I’ve also come to appreciate and even befriend. With a series, I can stay with the characters, watch them learn and grow, worry over their challenges, and celebrate their victories. By the time we read several books about them, we know them inside and out. We know how they are like us and how they are different. The next book in the series is a visit with a dear friend.
Do you feel the same way about reading a series? What would you add to this list?
This Post Has 26 Comments
Love series of all sorts. It’s so much fun revisiting my faves.
Glad to hear, Anne, but not surprised! 🙂
Saralyn — I’m a super fan of book series, including yours!
Aw, thanks, Laurie. And I love yours, too.
You nailed the many good reasons for reading and writing a series. I appreciate the idea that a person can begin anywhere in a series and navigate from there backward or forward. I often see readers who stumble upon a book and won’t read it if it’s out of order. But I’m happy to embrace the happenstance of going along for the ride no matter the order.
That’s just like real life. You most often meet people in the middle, and you can hear their back story, or follow along with them into the future.
I agree with everything. My novella series is somewhat different than most series. In the Mischief in Moonstone Series, which combines romance and mystery, the main two characters and a few others are new or change in each book, but the background characters continue through each book and the main characters in one book become background characters in the next books. A reader can read the books out of order because each book is “new” or the first for the main characters of that book.
That sounds really interesting, Christine. I’ll have to jump in…
I have to ditto Joy Ann. You touched on all the pros of writing a series. I’m glad you are having fun with it but hope you get to all those other ideas percolating in your brain, too. Who knows? Another series might be lurking in there as well.
So true. I often have people ask me if my standalones will be turned into series. So many stories to tell!
Saralyn, most of your reasons are my reasons for writing and reading a series. I feel that my four detectives are my children. They may leave to solve a case, but they always “come home.” Your Reason #4, however, differs from mine since my audience is children, who will inevitably “age out” of my books. But, hopefully, their younger siblings will continue reading them. Thanks for your post!
And their children after that! I also have a children’s book, and it gains a new audience about every four years. That’s part of the fun of writing for youngsters.
I was surprised to learn I was writing a series when Penguin offered me a two-book (and then another two-book) deal. I’d thought it was a standalone. But starting a new story feels like meeting up with old friends (writing or reading).
Lucky Penguin to snag four of your books!
I’m always sad when I finish a series. They’re addictive!
How do you know when you’ve finished a series? Isn’t there always the possibility that the author will write another?
My first series was accidental. I found myself mid-series with Lawrence Block’s Matthew Scudder character. I was so enthralled that I went back and bought every one on the backlist and read them in order until I resumed reading where I had left off. I then read Gorky Park and followed the Arkady Renko character every time I saw it in paperback. I am faithful to the Cormoran Strike novels. I would stand in the rain to be first in line to get the next one in hardback.
You are a dream reader for the series writer, John!
I love this post, Saralyn, and agree with all of your reasons to read and write a series. And I love Detective Parrott and his wife and can see why your readers at that time clamored for more. I also love writing and reading a series!
Thanks for your comments, Margaret, especially about Parrott and Tonya, who are very special people. And while we’re talking about special people, I also love Mattie and Robo!
I love reading series books for all those reasons, too, Saralyn. And the best part of writing them is watching our characters move forward in life.
Agree. Even when moving forward means confronting more and more challenges.
Tracey and Saralyn, my detectives will not move forward in time or age since they will be Forever Thirteen. But they will move forward in wisdom and experience (like Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys). Just my quirky preference!
That’s your prerogative, and a good choice for that target age group.
Way, way back in high school, I read all the Travis McGee novels by John D. MacDonald. I reread a few recently (they didn’t hold up for me) and noticed something interesting. MacDonald’s relationship with McGee changed over the course of the series. It seemed like he didn’t know him well in the first book, fleshed him out him in the next few books, really liked him around the middle of the series, and felt like he was an anachronism near the end. He tried to let him age, but couldn’t quite figure out how. In the last McGee book, he kind of sunsets the character.
McGee: “In the last few years I had been ever more uncomfortably aware that one day, somewhere, I would take one last breath and a great iron door would slam shut, leaving me in darkness on the wrong side of life. But now there was a window in that door. A promise of light. A way to continue.”
MacDonald died before he could help his most famous character find that path.
I have two novels and a few short stories about my forensic scientist, Sean McKinney. The first novel came out so long ago, and I’m such a slow writer, that I’ve kind of lost touch with him. (I keep thinking I ought to bump him off.) ;^)
Tim, that is so interesting. I could say something similar about Agatha Christie’s relationship with Hercule Poirot.